Tuesday council report: Mayor says city ‘in negotiations’ with police chief search firm, new judge sworn in

New Edmonds Municipal Court Judge Whitney Rivera, third row, is sworn in by former municipal Judge Linda Coburn, bottom row, as councilmembers, the mayor and staff look on.

Edmonds Mayor Mike Nelson provided a long-awaited update at Tuesday night’s Edmonds City Council meeting regarding the next steps for hiring a police chief. “We’ve been reviewing applicants for a search firm and are currently in contract negotiations with one,” Nelson said, adding that more details would be provided “once we’ve completed those negotiations.”

Edmonds Economic Development and Community Services Director Patrick Doherty had said on Jan. 7 that the mayor would be providing an update “in a day or two” on the search process.

While the search goes on, it’s unclear what will happen to the acting chief assignment that has been held for a year by Assistant Chief Jim Lawless. That assignment expires on Jan. 22 and an extension is subject to city council approval.

A year ago, when Nelson initially launched a search for a chief to replace Al Compaan, who retired Jan. 1, 2020, the city hired California-based Public Sector Search & Consulting, which focuses exclusively on recruiting police executives. Their contract with Edmonds totaled $28,500, although the city paid out only $6,422 when the search was cut short due to the COVID pandemic. In April, Nelson announced he intended to make Lawless the permanent chief, but the city council voted to require a search process, which resulted in a job offer to Sauk-Suiattle Tribal Police Chief Sherman Pruit. That job offer was rescinded after application discrepancies came to light, and the mayor promised to conduct yet another search.

In other business Tuesday night, the council watched the virtual swearing-in ceremony for new Edmonds Municipal Court Judge Whitney Rivera. An Edmonds resident who graduated from Edmonds-Woodway High School, Rivera was sworn in by former Municipal Court Judge Linda Coburn, who was elected in November to the Washington State Court of Appeals.

“I’m eager to serve the City of Edmonds,” Rivera said. “I’m here to serve the community where I grew up and live.”

The council also reviewed and provided comments on a second draft of a Council Code of Conduct. The document was originally proposed last summer by Councilmember Laura Johnson, but after some council pushback it was revised by a subcommittee comprised of Johnson and Councilmembers Luke Distelhorst and Vivian Olson.

Distelhorst began by providing background on the process, noting that the council passed Resolution 1306 in December 2013 adopting a new Code of Conduct that applied to the mayor, councilmembers and all members of city boards, commissions, committees or work groups. The new conduct code would replace Resolution 1306 for councilmembers, but 1306 would still apply to the other parties, he explained.

You can see the entire draft two-page code here.

Subcommittee member Laura Johnson then read over the code’s first section:

6.1 General Conduct

A. Councilmembers shall focus discussions and debates on vision, policies, and their implementation.

B. No Councilmember shall dominate proceedings during Council or other public meetings.

C. Personal, insulting, or intimidating language, body language and actions, are not allowed. Councilmembers may raise a point of order for ruling by the Chair or by the Body to address inappropriate remarks.

D. Ensuring that all meeting participants feel welcome is a vital part of the democratic process. No signs of partiality, prejudice, or disrespect should be evident on the part of Councilmembers toward any individual participating in a public meeting. Every effort should be made to be fair and impartial in listening to Council, staff and public testimony and discussions.

E. Technology allows words written or said to be distributed far and wide. Councilmember written notes, voicemail messages, texts, email, or other electronic communications, are public records and shall follow this code.

Councilmember Diane Buckshnis said she worried that item C was “extremely subjective” and suggested it be rewritten. She also recommended that language be included that the council conduct business “in an open and transparent manner” and that the council “allows vetting to take place during a public setting.”

Council President Susan Paine said that while she understood that C could be viewed as subjective, she pointed to Roberts Rules of Order, which requires “decorum inside debate.”

Subcommittee member Vivian Olson presented the second section:

 6.2 Conduct with City Staff, the City Attorney, and the Council Legislative Assistant 

A. The community is best served when the abilities, experience, and knowledge of staff and contract employees work alongside councilmembers, and councilmembers will value these resources and relationships by: 

1. Using respectful language and tones; 

2. Whenever possible, provide questions ahead of public meetings and otherwise avoid surprises; 

3. Recognize that calls and emails may not be returned outside of business hours; 

4. Expressing concerns about performance only to the Mayor, in the case of staff, and the Council President, in the case of Council legislative aide and City Attorney; 

5. Understanding that Council, as a legislative body, directs City business via policy change initiated by majority Council vote only; councilmembers acting individually shall refrain from directing staff or otherwise intruding on the City’s administrative functions. 

“I have significant problems with this whole section,” Councilmember Kristiana Johnson said. In particular, Johnson said, she opposed the code spelling out how council should conduct themselves with staff members, stating that should come from the mayor.

“I truly believe that no councilmember should be talking to the mayor about the performances of staff, period,” added Buckshnis. “That’s not our job.”

In addition, related to point 5, Buckshnis said that she wants to feel free to talk directly to the city attorney without telling the council president about it.

Councilmember Adrienne Fraley-Monillas countered that during her time as council president, she received complaints regarding councilmembers “overstepping their bounds” during interactions with staff. The draft code of conduct more clearly clarifies the councilmembers’ roles “in terms of legislative rather than administrative,” Fraley-Monillas said. “That doesn’t mean we can’t talk to staff.”

Then Olson continued with the third section:

 6.3 Conduct with Boards, Committees, Commissions, and Outside Agencies 

A. The City maintains several boards and commissions as a means of encouraging and gathering community input. Residents who serve on boards and commissions are a valuable resource to the City’s leadership and shall be treated with appreciation and respect. 

B. Councilmembers are appointed as non-voting members to serve as the primary two-way communication liaison between the Council and boards, commissions, and committees. Councilmembers are not to direct the activities or work of the board, commission, or committee. 

C. Councilmembers may attend any board or commission meeting to which they are not appointed but shall do so as a member of the public. Personal comments or positions, if given, will be identified as such and shall not be represented as the position of the City or Council. 

D. Councilmembers shall not contact a board or commission member to lobby on behalf of an individual, business, or organization. It is acceptable for Councilmembers to contact the board, committee, or commission members in order to clarify or contextualize a position taken by the body. When making contact the relevant Council liaison should be included in such communication. 

E. When attending a non-city sponsored event, meeting, conference, or other activity, a Councilmember may be authorized to represent the Council only upon a majority vote of the Council. Likewise, a Councilmember may be authorized to represent the City only upon the express permission of the Mayor. 

Councilmember Kristiana Johnson said she believed that point D “is too restrictive. I have a problem when we’re not allowed to discuss a potential action or policy with a board or commission member. I just feel that this hamstrings the council about how we can talk to people.”

The final section, read by Distelhorst, addressed implementation, compliance and enforcement.

“When a breach of this code occurs, councilmembers are encouraged to remind one another of the Code of Conduct terms,” the draft code noted.

Subcommittee members agreed that they would take another look at the language to see if it can be modified to address councilmembers’ concerns.

Also during the meeting, the council approved an amendment to a legal services agreement with Zachor & Thomas, the Edmonds law firm that serves as the city’s prosecuting attorney. The council also authorized the Lighthouse Law Group to negotiate an additional amendment that addresses data tracking of the law firm’s workload now that the city has suspended third-degree Driving While License Suspended (DWLS) citations.

And it approved the waiver of six months of rent — from January to June — that the city normally charges the Edmonds Chamber of Commerce to rent office space on the first floor of city hall. The waived rent is $713 a month, for a total of $4,278

Two other items of note from the end of Tuesday’s meeting:

– Nelson announced he would be presenting a State of the City Address next Thursday, Jan. 21 at 6:30 p.m.

– During their council comments, all councilmembers decried last week’s violence that occurred at both the U.S. and State Capitols. Some councilmembers also specifically referenced the verbal and written attacks that they had been subjected to in recent weeks, related to recent publicity surrounding the failed police chief search and charges of racism in Edmonds. “What do you call the refusal of some to acknowledge such incidents of hate and bias?” Councilmember Laura Johnson asked. “What do you call repeated bullying and intimidation? What do you call the posting of fliers all around Edmonds in a gaslighting attempt to shame elected officials because they acknowledged that racism exists here in Edmonds?”

“If we do not acknowledge it, then how can we expect it to change?” Johnson continued. “Whether it is the inequities and injustices embedded within issues of health care, housing, policing, social services, environmental protection and more, we must be willing to listen and to aknowledge that the impact is not the same for all of us.”

— By Teresa Wippel




23 Replies to “Tuesday council report: Mayor says city ‘in negotiations’ with police chief search firm, new judge sworn in”

  1. As it relates to the extension of an acting directorship, following is our actual City Code:

    ECC 2.10.040.B – The authority to hold an appointive office on an acting basis (an acting directorship) shall expire and be deemed vacant six months after the date of the acting appointment. If, during that six-month period, the administration has not been able to generate sufficient interest from suitable candidates to satisfy the city council interview requirement (see ECC 2.10.010(D)), the mayor may request an extension of acting directorship authority from the city council, in increments of no more than six months at a time, to allow the recruiting process to continue. After the initial six-month term, each extension of the acting directorship shall be subject to city council confirmation.

    The Mayor and his advisors missed the expiration of the acting Police Chief appointment last June 30, 2020.

    This oversight resulted in the City choosing to pursue a loophole (as described by the City Attorney) during the July 21, 2020 City Council meeting. The loophole motion was made, seconded and voted on during the July 21, 2020 City Council Meeting.

    The motion passed and now we have an Acting Directorship created via loophole set to expire in roughly a week.

    The Mayor will NOT be able to request City Council extend the Acting Directorship this time because history shows the administration was able to generate sufficient interest from suitable candidates during that six-month period and City Council conducted a round of interviews. As a result, extension of the Acting Directorship is not a legal option.

    Will the Mayor request another Code Amendment, or will they try to find another loophole?

    When drafting ECC 2.10.040.B, it appears policymakers did not know they needed to contemplate the type of mess seen over the past year.


    1. Every time I read Ken’s comments I get this sinking feeling that the good ship Edmond’s City Government is in a continual whirlpool of near foundering, and temporary righting of the vessel, then near foundering again. Something is systemically wrong here. We go to the same old dance with different partners, somehow hoping that the dance will become a magnificent regal ball of some kind; never to be a problem again. It’s time for trying another approach. If it’s broken, as it appears to be most of the time, we should at least try to fix it. Just changing partners ain’t going to fix it.


  2. Relieved to see the waiver of rent for the Chamber of Commerce. Thank you, all!

    Meanwhile I am horrified at the personal threats that some Councilmembers have been experiencing. I do hope these are being documented and investigated fully.

    Edmonds is not immune to the hate flowing through this country. It is very real. It is here. We need to spend less time trying to convince people not to call us “racist” and more time listening to and believing our neighbors who continually tell us about how they are experiencing racism here. I wish we spent less time trying to convince people that racism “isn’t who are are” and more time figuring out how to re-work our policies and systems that are designed around white supremacy and white dominant culture.


    1. I sent a personal email to Laura Johnson about her poignant and eloquent statement given in Council comments last night. It is true that racism and equity need to be tackled at the personal and the City level. I do not agree with peanut butter statements that have been made, and these incidents need to be called out with details and then policy at the City level need to be adjusted and/or changed in conjunction with our neighboring cities (Mountlake Terrace and Lynnwood have a significantly higher population of minorities, and perhaps partnering with them on solutions and regional education programs and government initiatives can align the cities and get more bang for the buck – most of these initiatives will be carried out by consultants, and that is a hefty price to pay if we do not spend wisely across the region). I am not going to go so far as to label it white supremacy – there are very few historic references to redlining or other social programs in Snohomish County (unlike King County that had clear deed restrictions, redlined districts, etc) and overall all, Snohomish County (by their own reporting) has shown in general a better (not perfect) ability to promote equity in housing and social programs. Just because they are doing better does not mean that they cannot do even better – and I support that through policy changes that are regionally based. As an enclave of Snohomish (Everett by far is the largest City with the most issues) we are, I believe the 5th largest population center. Lynnwood and Mountlake (by Snohomish reporting) have the largest concentration of minority residents (inclusive of the Asian population). Working in conjunction with those two cities would have significant impact on equity programs. More in next comment.


      1. George- I feel you didn’t mean to do so, but I wanted to flag that, referring to black and brown citizens as “minorities” is an example of a system rooted in white supremacy and white dominant culture.


        1. I mean minorities in the pure mathematical sense. POC’s, Aging populations, marginalized groups, LGBTQX, disabled members of our community all have a say. When I say minorities, it is from a pure mathematical sense, and I will be more sensitive to that in future comments. There in itself is one of the generational or societal differences in communication that may lead to some of the disagreements that are essentially communication differences, not because we are all white rich packs of people who ignore and are not sensitive to all of the community. Sort of like the white supremacist or white dominated society comments that also flag and flare up differences in communication!


    2. Please stop repeating that “White Supremacy” divisive nonsense.

      Definition: mi·nor·i·ty
      noun: the smaller number or part, especially a number that is less than half the whole number.

      Edmonds, WA census.gov Population estimates July 1, 2019 Race:
      White alone, percent 80.1%
      Black or African American alone, percent(a) 1.6%
      American Indian and Alaska Native alone, percent(a) 0.3%
      Asian alone, percent(a) 8.0%
      Native Hawaiian and Other Pacific Islander alone, percent(a) 0.8%
      Two or More Races, percent 5.6%
      Hispanic or Latino, percent(b) 7.9%


    3. Just one more factoid – Washington State is 67.5% white – in order to get policies in place that assist marginalized communities, that is the group that needs to be educated and must assist in changing those policies. One would expect, with a white population that is over two-thirds of the population, for the views to be white dominated. In my opinion, and on the contrary, having spent at least a week in all 50 States, and being raised in the South (with a large portion of my family still in the South) Edmonds has done, and continues to, promote diversity and inclusion in their programs and their spending. Does that mean more cannot be done at a policy level? No. Does that mean we are white supremacists? No. It means that at a public policy level, Edmonds needs to adjust their policies (a good example is the Housing Commission) to meet the needs of all of our Citizens. I am proud to be a resident of Edmonds, but I want everyone to be proud and be able to both live and make a living here – and that is a fine balance! (Housing prices have skyrocketed, and that eliminates a huge portion of the population – but we can make a difference for the current residents without eliminating the parts of Edmonds that makes it a unique destination). Plan wisely, spend wisely, execute wisely, and measure wisely. Most importantly – all people have a say – we need to get all groups involved. Edmonds does a good job of providing the platforms, MEN and the Beacon do a good job, most of Council is responsive, and although I have not reached out to the Mayor, from what I understand he can be responsive to emails.


      1. Still this definition of “minority” is all about numbers, not people. Lumping everyone together and labelling them “minorities” is literally dehumanizing. The term is being used like this in people’s relationship to a white “majority” and paints everyone else with one broad stroke. We can’t keep framing our evaluation about policies and our community in terms of how it affects the white people versus this other lumped together group of people with that label. This is fundamental to the definition of white supremacy in how it centers all of our policy discussions around a presumed white-dominant culture. Ultimately, it distracts people from real solutions.


  3. Sent from former resident: Edmonds friends! A few love to write in and inspect their navel for all to see. Get some counseling. In private. The rest of us can ignore your depression and give thanks for the 99.9% of Edmonds that is beautiful. To you few who can only bemoan life: find a friend. Heal yourself first. Give thanks you get to live in Edmonds.


  4. It sounded like everyone was going well until the spoke their mind at the end. It sounds like with everything happening in Edmonds, they’re most concerned with what was obviously just another Summer of Love festival in DC.


    1. Matt,

      I found it interesting and somewhat necessary given the current climate. I would not call it a love fest, but a call for dialogue and decorum in times of uncertainty and unrest. I do believe that it would have been just as appropriate this summer during the unrest, but I was not paying attention to the Council at that time.


      1. Matt was referring to comments made by the “wonderful” Mayor of Seattle regarding CHOP/CHAZ early in the Summer.


  5. In my life I have lived in Hastings Nebraska, Lincoln Nebraska, Everett WA., Mukilteo WA. and Edmonds WA. Hastings and Lincoln both had a relatively small population of POC but most “White” people never saw them because they were pretty much afraid to leave their neighborhoods except to go out to work somewhere at menial jobs for low wages. In Mukilteo I had a mixed skin color marriage and family as one neighbor next door and a black couple neighbor who lived next to them. They were great people and great neighbors. Both of the black men related to me how the Mukilteo police routinely followed them when spotted driving in town and often followed them right to their door for no apparent reason.

    My simple point is that in terms of my experience, Edmonds is the least “racist” town I have lived in. I’m interested in reading about other people’s actual living experiences in various places and Edmonds. I apologize if any of my references to people’s so called “race” have been offensive. That was not intended, if so.

    I personally do not believe in the concept of “race” in regards to the human being. I think we are all the same and our skin colors are the result of what type of climate our ancient ancestors lived in for long periods of time. “Race” is the ultimate – big lie perpetrated in the interest of obtaining cheap or free labor. Organized religion has been both a partner (Christian justification of slavery based on bible references) in perpetuating the big lie and a major source of fighting the perpetuation of the big lie (MLK Jr. Christian protestant ministry and the Black Muslim movement).


    1. I don’t know if I can say I have experienced racism in Edmonds or not. Things that I attributed to racism were extremely subtle, and could be explained by many things other than racism. I have had Edmonds Police officers treat family in front of me with hypocrisy when involved in an incident involving a White person. An example being an accident where the officer refused to even take a statement from one party involved, and issued her a ticket after listening to the other parties statement. Could the officer have purposefully taken the White persons side? Yes. Could the officer have had a legitimate reason to not interact with my family member and legitimate basis to issue the ticket? Also yes.

      In personal interactions with people, occasionally I will have a White person treat me far more curtly than they treated another White person a few seconds ago. But this happens so rarely that to brand Edmonds as a racist town would be absurd. And again, while in my mind I might think someone is treating me poorly because of racism, they may not even be consciously treating me poorly at all. It might just be their general demeanor that I misinterpreted.


    2. While I have family who have been called explicitly racist slurs in other parts of Western WA, the most racism I experienced was very subtle, and in fact came from people who pride themselves in being “progressive”. I had a school councilor who constantly referred to her male middle eastern students as “scary and intimidating” in highly inappropriate contexts. My Bernie bro friend once implied the only way I could get into the UW would be through affirmative action, which was kind of funny because I consistently did academically better than him, and I am fairly certain that Pakistani people are over represented in higher education, rather than under.
      Someone who was extremely involved in social justice movements, specifically feminist activism, once told me that she believed that social equity would mean that “her people” (White people) would have less opportunities.

      Nothing particularly pleasant to be told, and the irony is delicious, but I do consider myself fortunate to not have been referred to as a sand n*****, told to go back to my country, or been physically assaulted because of my race or manner of dress.


  6. Please allow me to share a little in terms of my experiences with racism.
    I’m white and growing up in Edmonds I had never seen a black person other than on tv. When I was a child, I had a black doll and my friends mocked me for it and couldn’t understand why I would want to have a black doll. I was afraid of black people because of negative comments I heard from my parents.
    When I grew up, I knew that I had been programmed through ignorance and fear, to be racist. I then began dating black people so I could reverse that “curse.”
    I found myself afraid to be seen in restaurants with a black person, because of what people would think. I knew that was wrong, but I didn’t tell anyone what I was thinking.
    Fast forward to today. My 22 year old daughter is a beautiful combination of black and white. I raised her as a single parent in Everett, WA. She went to an extremely diverse school and was never treated differently, due to the color of her skin. The folks in Everett are very different from my Edmonds neighborhood.
    My daughter is now in her second year of law school. Her college experience has been different in terms of racism. The racism she has experienced is from blacks, not whites. She isn’t “black enough” and her law school values her black parent over her white parent. This is also racism!
    I have also experienced racism from the black families of the people I dated, who refused to even meet me because I was white. They also expressed to me that they were raised to distrust white people, especially cops.
    Black churches want to stay black. Voddie Baucham


  7. I had approached my word limit on the previous comment, so I want to clarify the ending if I may.
    According to Voddie Baucham, black churches became angry with him when he got a job preaching in a white church. He claims that black pastors are not “losing sleep” over the fact that their churches don’t have white congregants. His experience is that white pastors are more concerned about the lack of diversity in their church.
    My point is that fighting racism with racism is NOT the answer. All lives matter and we can’t demonize whites in the name of correcting racism. That is insanity!
    If there are groups of ignorant white people excluding blacks that is wrong! If there are groups of ignorant black people excluding whites, that is also wrong! I’ve experienced both sides and it can’t be blamed on either side. Both sides are participating and until we all get real with our programming, our ignorance and most of all our fears, we can’t even begin to tackle this issue.


  8. I agree with Dorian about more diversity and acceptance of general “race” differences in terms of Black and White in the Everett area from when I lived there. What I noticed though, in Everett and North County in general, was quite a bit of anti indigenous peoples rhetoric and “racism” directed at the Tribes and their endeavors and life style. Lots of resentment over fishing rights and the gaming enterprises they promote. Lots of subtle put downs of life on the “Res” for example.


  9. Clinton: and to all the very busy comment writers who seem to be obsessing with meaning of individual words. Racism. Diversity. Then we could look at accountability. Consequences. Then healing. Unity.
    My comment to you all: loosen up. Take a walk. Get away from your keyboard. There are people out here.
    Even children – on the sidewalks. Get downtown! Celebrate being alive. If we keep on inspecting our navel, we will never grow up! Edmonds is delightful. Let it be so.


  10. Nancy: Since you are shelling out unsolicited and pretty much unwanted advice, here’s mine to you. No one is putting a gun to your head and telling you to read this stuff or comment on it. Newsflash: this is where people come to vent and state their opinions. I’ve probably lived the Edmond’s experience just as long or longer than you and will exercise my right to comment when and how I feel like it. No one, including you, has to read it or like it. So I suggest you just relax and go about your business and I’ll do likewise. That’s my unsolicited and unwanted advice to you. Thanks.


  11. Another excellent write up from Mr. Teitzel. Encouraging also are the majority of these comments. I’d all but given up on any collective effort that involves sanity!

    I’ve marked my calendar for Nelson’s State of the City address that he has scheduled for next Thursday, Jan. 21 (6:30 pm?)…. I am certain he won’t take any questions of course. I remain baffled at this community’s tolerance for his opaque (at best) communication style, let alone his inconsistent show of sound decision making. I’ll be more than curious to hear him make this address.


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